EL PASO, Texas - The Village of Vinton is in an unprecedented situation. The village is in a stalemate over a budget for the new fiscal year.If an agreement can't be reached by Friday, the village could lose its operating power. The village adopting last year's budget was on the table, but that motion failed.
Mayor Madeline Praino said the Village of Vinton is being held hostage. They have till Friday to come up with a budget and ratify a tax rate or the county won't send out tax notices and the village can't collect any revenue to keep operating.
To avoid this, certain alderpersons made a motion to adopt last year's budget, with the tax rate staying the same and even in this unprecedented, urgent situation, the village couldn't even agree on that. It's important to understand there's a lot of tension in the air, not over the budget but over building a water and sewer system.
Vinton currently relies on septic tanks, but many residents want a sewage system. About $38 million in available state and federal grants would pay for the project. If Vinton accepts that money, they'll have to pay back anywhere from $2-4 million. It's for this reason that alderpersons Martha Garcia, Juvencia Rios-Ontiveros, and Maria Medina don't want the system. They say the system will throw Vinton into debt and raise taxes.
"I will not put my constituents in a debt for 30 or 40 years with high taxes while they are spending," Rios-Ontiveros said
"We are trying to compromise," Mayor Praino said. "Her proposals for a budget were outrageous and we tried to compromise. She won't agree to anything."
If the sewer system were built, taxes would go up by seven cents next year. The current tax rate is $0.27 per $100 of home valuation. For residents who have to choose between replacing a septic tank at $40,000 versus paying about $4,000 in taxes, they perceive Rios-Ontiveros as working against them.
"There's a business right across the street that's leaving because of water," resident Victor Carrejo said. "They're going to relocate and we're going to lose 200 jobs."
"The reason they can't attract infrastructure because of this whole problem of sewage and water," said state Representative Dee Margo.
The Village of Vinton has until the end of this week to agree on a budget or else. They're still providing basic services, but after Friday, they will either stop operating or incur thousands of dollars in fees from the county, which would be pointless because this whole issue was started over curbing the deficit. One alderperson said they have to call a special meeting this week to try again, but they don't know when that will be.